Monday, September 18, 2017

A League Intern Rides Along with the West St. Paul PD

In June, Khongpheng Vang joined the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust as an intern through the City of St. Paul’s Right Track Program. Vang is a senior at Johnson High School and takes advanced classes toward college credit in the areas of algebra, history, chemistry, and writing. Recently, he got the opportunity to ride along with the West St. Paul Police Department and writes about it below.

On August 17, I had the opportunity through my internship at the League of Minnesota Cities to visit the West St. Paul Police Department and ride along with Officer Baumeister. I got to experience and understand more of what happens during the daily life of a police officer. I saw many new things like the different rooms that make up a police department—including jail cells and interrogation and evidence rooms. I even experienced what it was like to pull over two vehicles during this ride-along. My time with Officer Baumeister was great and allowed me to explore another possible government career.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Q&A with Mental Health First Aid Instructor Akmed Khalifa

City employees have opportunities to create connections with many members of the community. Through these connections, city employees are in unique positions to provide help when someone is experiencing a mental health crisis. But how can city employees get the tools needed to provide that assistance?

Akmed Khalifa is an instructor for Mental Health First Aid, a program that gives people tools to provide aid during a mental health crisis, and he took some time to talk about the upcoming eight-hour workshops that the League will be hosting around the state.

How does Mental Health First Aid prepare people to provide help in a crisis?
First, the concept of Mental Health First Aid is to provide help to someone developing a mental health problem or experiencing a crisis, so we prepare people to offer first aid in a crisis until appropriate help can be reached. The goal is to give you the skills to recognize warning signs of a mental illnesses crisis and the ability to say “I know what’s happening, I recognize these signs, now I know what to do.” The purpose isn’t to teach people to diagnose mental illnesses, but instead to provide them with a variety of skill and tools, to help someone who may be experiencing a crisis. Not only are you given the tools to connect to appropriate professional help, you’re given tools to offer help and what can be done. There is detailed information on how to de-escalate a crisis, and what words to use in many different situations.

Why do you feel this training is important for city employees?

Mental illness is an everyday situation and affects everyone, which is why this audience is so great. This was made for everyone, not just people who are already first-responders. People in these roles connect with many community members, it’s likely that they’ll connect with someone who can be helped with the skills they’ll get in these workshops.

What sort of need have you seen for this training in Minnesota cities, and what impact have you seen it have as more people are trained?
There is a high demand for the class across the state. Part of what we do is to help people understand that mental illness is much more common than we think and that we all experience anxiety or depression, but there’s a difference between that and having depression. A big part of these workshops is to recognize that difference, and to understand what next steps you can take. You’ll develop active intelligence—you’ll be able to act on the information you get in this eight-hour training, plus you’ll have materials to refer to so you can provide the best help.

What sort of impact have you seen Mental Health First Aid having in the community?

Shortly after my co-teacher started instructing these workshops, one student put this knowledge to use to help someone at her church who was thinking about suicide. She used the words in the manual, understood the needs the person in crisis had, connected the person with appropriate professional support, and that person then got treatment. The great thing about Mental Health First Aid is that you can put it into action to make a difference in the community.

Want to know more about Mental Health First Aid? Visit the League’s website to find out about workshops scheduled this fall.

Akmed Khalifa is a Fairview Health Services, Youth Grief Services Camp coordinator focusing on expanding the program into North Minneapolis. Akmed has spent the past 40 years counseling and mentoring young adults in both community and educational settings. Akmed is an educator and trainer with experience ranging from serving as adjunct faculty at Metro State University to being a certified diversity trainer who has taught City of Minneapolis employees, Bloomington Public Schools staff and others.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Attention Students: Share How You Would Spotlight City Careers by Oct. 13!

Charity, one of the essay contest winners from 2015, stopped
by the Cities Matter booth this year! Charity got her
essay form  in 2015 from the state fair, but you can also
find it online at
Students can find reminders of the value of local government careers everywhere—when riding the bus, walking on sidewalks to a friend’s house, checking out books at their local library, or drinking clean water at a park drinking fountain. Without city employees, these everyday activities would not be possible.

For the 2017 Mayor for a Day Essay Contest, the League wants to hear how fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-graders who live in Minnesota answer this question: If you were mayor for a day, what would you do to show people that local governments are good places to work?

Three winners will be awarded $100, and their essays will be published in Minnesota Cities magazine.

To find out more about local government careers and why city employees love what they do, essay writers can visit the careers section of the Cities Matter webpage. There students will find what real people have to say about their jobs working in cities, and can see how visitors to the Minnesota State Fair learned more about which city careers need their “superpowers."

Essay submissions must be sent to the League by Oct. 13, so download an entry form for a child you know today! 

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Q&A with Engineering Director Debra Heiser from the City of St. Louis Park on Small Cell Wireless

During the 2017 legislative session, a new law was enacted that allows small cell wireless equipment to be installed on city-owned infrastructure. As deadlines to comply with the new law approach, you might be wondering what exactly does your city need to do to comply.

Debra Heiser, engineering director with the City of St. Louis Park, talked about how her city worked with wireless providers earlier this year (prior to the new law passing in the legislature) to come to an agreement on placing small cells in the city’s densely populated West End area.

St. Louis Park reached an agreement with a wireless provider on small cell antennas in February. What was St. Louis Park’s process for approaching small cell wireless?
We worked out a master license agreement with Verizon to allow co-location on city owned poles. We worked with them for a year on location, aesthetics, and more. Once the license agreement was reached, Verizon handled all the installation and then they worked with their contractor. The city handled the installation just like anything else going in the right of way—we did monitor the installation, to make sure it matched the agreement, but the installation was 100% Verizon.

How were locations to install this technology chosen in St. Louis Park?
We’ve all been to places or events where we have slow data. As people become more dependent on data and their smart phones, and when there are places where a lot of people are potentially on their phones, there’s a lot of demand for data. So as people become use technology more, wireless providers are noticing holes in their coverage in these busy areas. These small cells are repeaters that help fill those holes in coverage, so densely populated areas are the focus for this technology.

How did the installation process work?
The installation is complete and took two weeks. There wasn’t a lot of disruption to the community, except that there was construction on the street while the installation was happening. For the installation, the company wanted to collocate on some banner poles, so they ordered structural poles to accommodate the equipment, ran fiber optics to the poles, and handled restoring the installation area to what it looked like before the work was done.

What do you think other cities should know as they work to comply with the new provisions?
Have a clear process and expectations with the provider. We had a couple hiccups during the process. An example was with power usage. The provider wanted to use the power that was used to light the poles, but photo cells provide the power on the light poles, so they don’t work during the daylight. That was one thing we tried to anticipate and let the provider know that was the case. Make sure you talk about anything that can happen.

Is there any other advice you’d like to pass on to cities working on their own small cell wireless agreements?
Be proactive. Get your ordinance and your set right now. If you have questions, look at what other cities have done.

Want more background information, details on the new law, and examples from a city that’s already started the small cell installation process? Don’t miss a free webinar hosted by the League on Sept. 12. The live webinar will be available to anyone who wants to view it online. Local government officials and those who are employed by a city can also view the webinar live at the League and discuss ideas and concerns with other local government officials after the webinar. If you can't take part in the live viewing, you can watch a recording of the webinar once it's posted online.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Spotted: Discover Your Superpower at the Minnesota State Fair

It's a bird! It's a plane! It's the Minnesota State Fair! 

This year you'll find the Cities Matter campaign in the same familiar booth in the Education Building, but with a whole new look and activity. We're dedicating our 12 days of fair goodness to promoting the value of city careers and encouraging the next generation of future leaders to check out opportunities that cities have to offer.

If you are visiting the fair this year, be sure to try out the new interactive quiz to discover your "superpower," learn more about city careers that can help you make a difference in your community, and of course say hi to League staff and board members working the booth.

The Cities Matter campaign was launched in 2009 by the League of Minnesota Cities to educate the public about cities and the services they provide. You can check out the Cities Matter website to see all-new content that features city staffers and elected officials talking about what it's really like to work in Minnesota cities. These city superheroes are the real deal! 

Together we hope that the website and the booth are a dynamic duo that will bring some pow! into promoting local government careers and the important work that city officials do every day.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Spotted: Welcoming New Board Members and Old Traditions

LMC staff gave a big welcome to new members of the board of directors on July 20, when these fresh faces gathered with the returning board for their first official meeting. And then we made them pose for awkward photos. Thanks, all! You make these obligatory moments look good! Please help us welcome from left to right: Curt Boganey, city manager of Brooklyn Center; Justin Miller, city administrator of Lakeville; Sara Carlson, mayor of Alexandria and CGMC representative; Lynn Kissock, mayor of Maple Lake; and Gary Hansen, city councilmember in Eagan and Metro Cities representative.

Also on the agenda was a presentation near and dear to our hearts. Tradition holds that the outgoing president of the League board presents to the League a piece of framed art representing their city. These mementos are hung throughout the building, reminding us daily of the special places that we serve, and the great people that have gotten us to where we are today. Thanks to outgoing president Rhonda Pownell (right), mayor of Northfield, for this meaningful gift, and thanks to incoming president Jo Emerson (left), mayor of White Bear Lake, for accepting it!

Photo credit goes to League staffers Danielle Cabot and Laura Zenz

Friday, June 16, 2017

Spotted: Around the 2017 LMC Annual Conference—Friday, June 16

Discussing issues important to cities with municipal colleagues, exploring the signs of a vibrant city, and hearing how to manage information made for a full and informative final day of the conference! Check out some highlights below:

Throughout the conference, city officials shared pressing topics that they wanted to discuss with colleagues. Friday morning, they sat down to explore topics including: social media use, small city revitalization, federal advocacy, and workforce housing. (Photo credit LMC staffer Katie Davidson)

How do communicating spending, hot legal topics, supporting new Americans, and employee engagement contribute to vibrant cities? City officials found out during the last round of educational sessions Friday morning. (Photo credit Todd Myra Photography)

Our brains are hungry for information, but with more data coming at us now than ever before, how do we keep from getting overwhelmed? Closing keynote speaker Dr. Amit Sood took us through ways to keep our brains from being overloaded as he explained his Stress Management and Resiliency Training (SMART) program. (Photo credit LMC staffer Jenna Kramer)

Thank you to everyone who helped make the 2017 Annual Conference great. We hope to see you next year in St. Cloud! (Photo credit LMC staffer Jenna Kramer)

What were your highlights from the 2017 Annual Conference in Rochester? Share your stories in the comments below!

Be sure to check out photos and a summary of events from Wednesday and Thursday!